I was miserable and alone outside the stake center, thinking of all my family and friends inside without me. I should have been more prepared.

My stake was excited that the Palmyra New York Temple dedication was going to be broadcast at our stake center. The members seemed abuzz with anticipation. I was looking forward to it too, but for some reason I kept procrastinating getting my ticket.

Finally, on the day of the dedication, I talked to one of the counselors in the bishopric to get my ticket. He handed me a ticket, and without looking at it, I put it in my purse. During sacrament meeting, announcements were made about the dedication, but I tuned them out because I already had my ticket.

I went home that day and got lost in other activities. About 15 minutes before the dedication was to begin, I decided I should probably leave. I felt prepared as I put my white handkerchief in my purse and even double-checked to make sure my ticket was still there.

My family had left earlier to get good seats, warning me that I should come soon. I had planned to drive with them but hadn’t been ready, so I decided to go separately.

As I pulled into the church parking lot, I was surprised at how full it was. It was packed with cars, but there wasn’t a person in sight. At first I feared I was late, but I looked at my watch and I had five minutes before the dedication was to start.

I walked up the steps to the church and tried the door. It was locked. I was puzzled but remembered hearing somewhere that they were letting people in only through certain doors. I wasn’t sure which doors, so I decided to try them all. I went around the church, pulling at the doors, rattling them slightly, trying in frustration to open them.

As I approached the last set of doors, I felt my heart quicken. I tried the door, but it too was locked. I peered into the lobby, which was empty. The doors to the chapel were closed. I realized sadly that everyone was already inside, and I was alone outside—looking in.

As I walked dejectedly back to the car, I decided to double-check the time of the dedication. I fished through my purse until I found the ticket and saw that I had the time right. Anger ran through me at being locked out. Why wasn’t I able to go inside? I was missing this historic event!

I turned over the ticket and was surprised to see writing on the back. I read it with curiosity. Clearly printed was the instruction to be seated 30 minutes before the dedication started.

Why hadn’t I seen that before? I had never read the back of my ticket. I had placed it in my purse as soon as I received it. I hadn’t prepared in one of the simplest ways possible. As I sat in the car, too sad to move, I realized I was like one of the five foolish virgins in the parable of the ten virgins. I was left outside the wedding ceremony with a lamp that was out of oil, while the others were inside with the bridegroom.

Whenever I had read that story in Matthew 25 [Matt. 25], I wondered how the five women had been so foolish. I always thought that purchasing enough oil was such a simple thing to do. I knew the oil and lamps represented our testimonies and the Holy Spirit’s guidance (see D&C 45:57). I had thought I was prepared to attend the temple dedication, yet I wasn’t inside listening to the prophet.

Alone in the parking lot, I realized that having a ticket wasn’t enough. We have more to do than simply be present on the day Christ comes. We need to be prepared in every way, constantly filling our lamps, not just thinking we have enough oil.

As I drove back home, tears stung my eyes. It hurt to be alone, knowing that family and friends were inside being uplifted and I wasn’t able to go in with them. I promised myself that from then on I would do all I could to be prepared with plenty of oil. I want to be part of the joyful wedding party instead of being one of the unprepared locked outside.

Illustrations by Sam Lawlor

Michele Tolley is a member of El Cerrito Ward, Corona California Stake.